Union Minister of State for Labour Santosh Gangwar had on May 6 written to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, flagging shortages in oxygen supply and other concerns related to the coronavirus situation in his Lok Sabha constituency Bareilly, The Indian Express reported on Monday.
In response, Adityanath along with Gangwar visited Bareilly district on Saturday to review the Covid-19 situation. However, as the letter began to circulate on social media on Sunday, Bareilly Chief Medical Officer Sudhir Kumar Garg issued fresh instructions to health officials to be mindful of the problems that the Union minister flagged.
Apart from paucity of oxygen, Gangwar, in his letter, had also mentioned black marketing of medical equipment like ventilators and the delay in admission of coronavirus patients in hospitals. Gangwar urged Adityanath to fix the rates of medical equipment and put in place a system, so that patients do not face problems to get admitted. He added that key health officials in Bareilly do not respond to phone calls.
The Union minister confirmed sending the letter, but added that “it was not to attack the government nor is it against the government”, The Indian Express reported.
Speaking to NDTV, Gangwar said that the matters he mentioned in the letter, were raised by citizens in his constituency. “I think the points they raised were valid and these can be investigated and decided on,” he told the news channel. “I think oxygen is just a temporary problem. It will get solved. But there should be no black marketing.”
The letter holds significance as Adityanath had claimed last month that there was no shortage of oxygen in any of the hospitals of the state. He had also reportedly demanded that action be taken under the National Security Act and that properties of those spreading “rumours” and propaganda on social media be seized.
In April, the police in Amethi filed a criminal case against a man who used Twitter to appeal for an oxygen cylinder for his grandfather. Last week, police in Lucknow registered a First Information Report against a private hospital in the city for allegedly spreading “false rumours” about shortage of oxygen and trying to hoard the gas at the facility. The hospital has, however, denied the charge and said it will move the Allahabad High Court against the FIR.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court said in April that governments should not curb the voices on social media either calling out for medical help or conveying their grievances during the coronavirus pandemic.